A variety of different shades of green blur past the car window. The tarmac is a shock to the eye next to the soft, tenebrous colours of dirt. Hundreds of trees stand tall- it’s all you can see for miles. Kieran and I have driven past this otherworldly dimension of nature several times before on our way to Leominster from Hereford. Now, it was finally time to explore it. We pull into a car park where a weathered building presents the entrance to Queenswood Country Park and Arboretum.
The park has stood tall for decades. Once large enough to cover over the Welsh border, Queenswood gained her name once Queen Elizabeth started her reign. During World War One, a large amount of the park was cut down for resources. Today, you can find members of the public using the park every day, exploring the arboretum, walking trails and viewpoint throughout the area. In addition, since the start of November, the park has been encouraging volunteers to help build a ‘Wellbeing Garden‘, which looks to employ the use of ecological and sustainable materials.
Walking through rows of trees, it’s easy to see why the Hereford Foundation (as well as many other funders) are making such a space here. The forest is very calming, and in the winter twilight, reveals a stark blue sky behind ornate tree branches. It reminds me of a Japanese tradition that is starting to make its way over to the UK. Shinrin-yoku translates as ‘forest bathing’. Its a form of meditation that takes place – you guessed it – in forests across Japan.
It tends to include therapeutic forest walks, where guides encourage people to focus on all five senses whilst stretching into yoga poses and admiring the wildlife around them. This tradition can take up to two hours, and always ends in a group tea tasting session for optimal relaxation. This kind of meditation can vastly improve your health and can be proved by several different scientific experiments that have been conducted since the early 1800s. From reduced stress and blood pressure to improved concentration and sleep, shinrin-yoku has astounding benefits.
Although guided forest bath tours aren’t available at Queenswood, its something people can do on their own. And by the sounds of it, could be a perfect exercise to do at the Wellbeing Garden once it’s built. The mass of green foliage and hardened bark; the eroded rock sprinkled on eternal soil and the endless stretch of land that can be seen from The Viewpoint. The sights at Queenswood allow you to take in the beauty of nature that we usually don’t care to see.